Five years ago, the last time the wildly creative Icelandic singer Björk played Los Angeles, she teased in an interview that her next project “probably happens not on Earth.”
Turns out, she was almost right. At the Shrine Auditorium on Saturday, the second of three shows of her Cornucopia production, Björk delivered an evening that was fantastically out of this world and seriously of it at the same time. As with “Utopia,” the album she’d been working on in 2017, the concert focused on themes such as climate change, transformation, peril and hope.
In a recent interview, she said that the ideas it contains are not post-apocalyptic, but “post-ecstatic,” offering a sense of wonder and hope for what might emerge from the mess humans have made of the planet.
It was a point made clear in a performance that combined music, theater and dance in a visually spectacular, powerful and moving production that included 19 songs in an hour and 45 minutes on Saturday.
The show opened with the Los Angeles choir Tonality stepping to the front of the stage for an unaccompanied song that used as its lyrics the impassioned speech delivered by teen environmentalist Greta Thunberg to the United Nations in 2019.
A recording of Björk singing “Family,” which is a song about a broken family that applies to humanity as a whole, followed as the lighting shifted to reveal glimpses of the singer and her musicians behind the transparent strands of a gently waving beaded curtain.
Slowly, beautifully, lights and visuals swirled in purples and yellows as she shifted into “The Gate,” one of 12 songs performed from “Utopia.” As the stage grew clearer, the Cornucopia set emerged.
A two-tiered platform appeared to have grown out of the floor like a gigantic mushroom, with Björk and a harpist on the lower stage, and the Icelandic flute septet Viibra on the higher. A percussionist and a multi-instrumentalist bracketed them on either side.
In a back corner sat a small cocoon-like hut sat, which was later revealed to be a reverb chamber; Björk and a flautist or two would occasionally slip in there to perform.
Björk has described Cornucopia, which wraps up at the Shrine on Tuesday before heading to San Francisco for a pair of shows, as her most elaborate theatrical production yet, a big statement for a woman known for her attention to wildly inventive creations.
She’s not wrong. Unlike the relatively unadorned performance she gave with an orchestra at Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2017, Cornucopia delivers a feast for all the senses.
The title track of “Utopia” and “Arisen My Senses,” played early in the show, introduced a repeated feature of the night: Images that were projected on a transparent scrim in front of the performers and a backdrop simultaneously to create a 3-D-like effect.
Given the focus on the most recent album, the arrival of the occasional older track stood out. “Venus As A Boy,” from her first album, “Debut,” prompted cheers as Björk sang it, accompanied by a single flutist.
“Isobel,” from her second album “Post,” drew an even bigger response when Björk stepped onto a platform at the front of the stage to sing as all seven fairy-winged flutists danced like Icelandic sprites on the mushroom behind her.
The visuals used throughout the night were reminiscent of those she’d displayed during Björk Digital, a virtual reality exhibit that stopped in Los Angeles in 2017 and allowed participants to enter her dream-like worlds.
But the Cornucopia imagery seemed a step or two more advanced, creating digital art that felt organic and flora and fauna that felt familiar and fantastic all at once.
It was, at times, almost too much of a visual feast to take in. Mind-blowing, even, judging by the guy a few rows behind who after a few songs, including “Claimstaker,” shouted out expletives of joy.
The experimental singer-songwriter Serpentwithfeet joined Björk for “Blissing Me,” during which percussionist Manu Delago provided rhythms by pouring water on gourds.
“Body Memory,” which opened the second half of the show, was a standout among many. A silver hoop descended from the rafters to encircle Björk, and it was then revealed to be one large connected flute that four of the musicians played.
A snowfall effect softly fell on the 18 singers of Tonality and strange human-like creatures morphed in and out of each other on the screens,
Björk’s fashions, of course, are as adventurous as anything else she does. At the Shrine, where she memorably wore a swan-like dress to the Academy Awards in 2001, she has debuted new looks each night.
On Saturday, she performed most of the show in an angular dress by Vanebon, the label created by Mexican-born designer Vanessa Bon, that featured pointed yellow shoulders and protruding pink hips.
“Sue Me” and “Tabula Rasa” closed out the main set, which segued to a video message delivered by Thunberg, urging action on climate before it’s too late.
For the encore, she changed into the white, leaf-like Sphæra dress created by Iris van Herpen for Cornucopia.
The encore opened with “Future Forever,” which begins with the words, “Imagine a future and be in it.” It ended with “Notget,” and a chorus of “Love will keep us safe from death.”
These two songs tied together both the warning and the hope of all that came before.
https://www.sbsun.com/2022/01/30/bjorks-cornucopia-show-provides-a-feast-for-the-senses-at-the-shrine-auditorium/ Björk’s Cornucopia show provides a feast for the senses at the Shrine Auditorium – San Bernardino Sun